Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it’s known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches, and the medieval Astronomical Clock, which gives an animated hourly show. Completed in 1402, pedestrian Charles Bridge is lined with statues of Catholic saints.
In Prague’s Hradcany neighborhood, Prague Castle, once the home of Bohemia’s kings, is today the official residence of the Czech Republic’s President and one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. Originally built as a walled fortress around 970 AD, the castle has changed dramatically over the years and contains examples of most of the leading architectural styles of the last millennium. Within the castle walls are a number of Prague’s most popular tourist sites, including St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Powder Tower, the Old Royal Palace, and theGolden Lane.
One of the most recognizable old bridges in Europe, magnificent Charles Bridge boasts 32 unique points of interest along its 520-meter span. Built in 1357, the bridge has long been the subject of a great deal of superstition, including the builders had laid the initial bridge stone on the 9th of July at exactly 5:31am, a precise set of numbers (135797531) believed to give the structure additional strength (for added good measure, it was constructed in perfect alignment with the tomb of St. Vitus and the setting sun on the equinox).
The Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock
The historic center of Prague, the Old Town (Staré Město), is where you’ll find the splendid Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), one of the best places to begin exploring the city. Here you’ll find the Tyn Church and the Clementinum, along with numerous other fine old churches, as well as splendid old architecture dating back as far as the 11th century, while the Jewish Quarter, Josefov, is just a short walk north.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Within the grounds of Prague Castle, the Roman Catholic St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala St. Vita) is the Czech Republic’s largest and most important Christian church. The seat of the Archbishop of Prague, it’s also home to the tombs of numerous saints and three Bohemian kings. Founded on the site of a Romanesque rotunda built in 925 AD, the cathedral was started in 1344 and took more than 525 years to complete, resulting in a mix of modern Neo-Gothic and 14th-century Gothic styles, along with Baroque and Renaissance influences.
A highlight of Prague’s New Town (Nové Město) district – an area that grew out of the city’s need to expand as it prospered – is the wonderful Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí), home to the National Museum and numerous other architectural treasures.